Lies, Magicians and Blind Faith creates a dialogue between two nations


When curator Reuben Keenan began envisioning an exhibition of artistic exchanges between the Philippines and Australia, he not only imagined the showing of art, but a display that “serves as an argument for cultural policy that sparks a new kind of dynamism”.

Lies Magicians and Blind Faith was soon born, celebrating not only a unique period of artistic exchange between the Philippines and Australia in the 1990s and 2000s, but the larger dialogue between the two nations.

While the show features both Australian and Filipino artists, highlighting their artistic and personal connections, it’s inevitably marked by history. “On one hand you had a country [the Philippines] where new forms of expression were flourishing after decades of dictatorship and oppression,” explains Keenan. “And on the other you had institutions in Australia actively supporting artist-to-artist dialogue.

“[There was also] a strong sense among the artists of pushing away from the cultural and economic hegemonies of Europe and the United States. Artists were challenging the legacies of colonialism and drawing on a range of influences, from street signs to folk art.”

The exhibition shows this. Key works include a collaborative painting by Nunelucio Alvarado and George Gittoes, King of the Beasts, 1993, and a piece by the late Santiago Bose, The Fatal Shore, 2000 (an artist book by Bose gives the exhibition its name). The centrepiece is a large-scale installation, Frog boy’s dissertation into a new karaoke cult, 2008, by Australian artist David Griggs, who lived in Manila for a decade.

“David’s work is a circus tent made up of canvases painted with images of Philippines life. He was inspired by the hand-painted billboards that are still in use. It’s also inspired by working closely with [leading Filipino artist] Manuel Ocampo, and by vernacular culture in the Philippines.” And although historically motivated, the show is not only about the past but centres ongoing artistic synergy.

Lies, Magicians and Blind Faith
Queensland Art Gallery
4 March—30 July

This article was originally published in the March/April print edition of Art Guide Australia.

Preview Words by Barnaby Smith